Arsenal good, referee bad and Bolton ugly

By Avenell Dave

So panic sets in. After 45 minutes of pummelling Bolton, we find ourselves level at the break.

Not again come the groans around me and from those watching elsewhere who fear we've shown our immaturity again.

Was the result ever in doubt though? Of course not, and to say that the red card for Gary Cahill was a game-changer makes a mockery of how easily we carved open our visitors.

It's easy to say that Bolton have changed under Owen Coyle; that they tend to play more football and are less reliant on a physical approach favoured by Fat Sam.


From where I sat, long balls up to Johann Elmander and Kevin Davies were all Bolton really had to offer and our inability to deal with one such punt resulted in their goal.

Laurent Koscielny has made a couple of mistakes since arriving in the summer and it's going to take him time to get used to the rigours of the Premier League.

But he won me over with his determination to play on after Joe Cole's lunge at him on the opening weekend and his 'keep calm and carry on' attitude after being headbutted by Davies is a credit to him and shows a steel that belies his slight frame.

Sebastien Squillaci looked fine at the heart of the defence too and Arsene Wenger's gamble of putting in an entirely new defence was both brave and wise. That's what the squad is for, after all. And Bolton at home while the sun still shines isn't a bad time to take such a risk.

Some fans and pundits criticised Alex Song's performance before he scored that delicate chip, but he keeps running, keeps chasing and gets in robust but fair challenges. It's a shame we have no alternative so he can be sure of a rest once in a while.

You would have to be a brave man to put money on Cesc Fabregas staying at Arsenal next season, but those who think he can't be bothered this season better think again.

Cesc ran the show and his passing remains a class above anyone else in the Premier League. He was involved in every goal in some way and we are going to be a poorer side without him.

Referee Stuart Atwell was as inept an official as I have seen at Arsenal.

How he didn't book Davies more than once; let Arsenal play on after Cahill's foul when we had broken forward (and then expel the Bolton defender when the ball was dead); send off Paul Robinson who has no right ever to play football and has probably maimed Abou Diaby again; or award us one of a number of decent penalty shouts, let alone the justifiable Trotters claim for a free kick when Song muscled through just before the Cahill incident... are all beyond me.

The bloke should stick to under-5s football because when you officiate at the top level, that standard of refereeing is simply unacceptable.

Thankfully, it didn't matter.

Perhaps the only blessing of Diaby's latest enforced absence is the extended run it affords Jack Wilshere in midfield.

Another youngster who refuses to be intimidated, I love the way he fights to win the ball back and picks out passes that carve openings, such as that which led to Koscielny's goal.

If he continues making progress as he has done, he could become our very own Paul Scholes or a decent replacement when Cesc departs.

Maraoune Chamakh gave another fine performance leading the line - I hope Nick Bendtner takes note of how the Moroccan brings others into the game and leads the line so well.

I'm surprised to hear Addicts after the game still having misgivings about his abilities, but if he carries on as he has done, he's easily going to beat his goalscoring tally for a season.

If one player deserves any criticism, it's Andrey Arshavin.

The Russian is highly talented but not focused enough. I don't blame him for missing the guilt-edged chances that came his way, particularly in the first half, but the fact that he wanted to go off towards the end rather than keep playing was shocking.

Bolton were opened up and there for the taking and Arshavin should have seen that as an opportunity to help us get more goals and get his fitness up.

He has it all. The question is whether he wants to use it on a consistent basis and the evidence suggests not.

Just a word for Manuel Almunia who is undergoing a tough time.

He made a fine save after the whistle had gone and was in no way to blame for Elmander's goal. His distribution is still poor and one clearance by Song, virtually kicking the ball out of Almunia's hands, underlines the lack of confidence the team has in him.

But he is with us at least until January and we have to get behind him.

He may be the weakest link but if we can work hard enough to protect him and play the kind of salsa football that led to Carlos Vela's goal, which had me standing up to applaud when I saw it again on the TV, all may not be lost.

There will be much harder tests to come this season and we can't afford to lose many more players.

But things are good and there's plenty more to celebrate than to lament.

We are Arsenal.